One Photo Book at a Time: Poland’s Fundacja Sztukwizualna

Based in Krakow, the heart of arts and culture in Poland, the Foundation for Visual Arts – Fundacja Sztukwizualna, has played a key role in the promotion of visual art since it was formed in 2001. The Foundation is a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to sharing content in print and believes in the importance of books on shelves and in hands. With a focus on photography and the photo book, the organisation is responsible for what is now one of the leading photography festivals in Eastern Europe, Krakow Photomonth. In its thirteenth year, the festival is held in July and attracts leading names in the photographic industry which promote the publication of new talent from within Poland and further afield. The Foundation, in the form of a publishing platform, has launched into printing beautiful artist books which explore a wide range of subjects and photographic genres.

As a means to challenge and discuss the complexities of a society that is still adjusting from years of totalitarian rule and undergoing massive social change against what is a traditionally religious culture, the Foundation seeks to chronicle these changes ‘one frame, exhibition, and photo book at a time’. Freedom of press and publishing is still a relatively new concept in the former eastern block country and therefore Fundacja Sztukwizualna is an innovative platform that has provided the foundation for Polish artists to share their work at home and abroad. Offering a range of skills in the fields of editorial, creative and logistics, the platform is able to support the whole publishing process from the conceptual phase through to print and distribution. In Mark Power’s book, The Sound of Two Songs, the Magnum photographer’s nearly decade-long photographic survey of contemporary Poland eloquently describes the changing social values of a country caught between the past, the present and the future. It was brought together in book form by Fundacja Sztukwizualna in collaboration with well-known Brighton based platform, PhotoWorks. It is clear that the foundation for visual arts has a passion for creating publications that hold something of great meaning to Polish culture.

The success of the Foundation is a testament to the hard work and vision of its creators, the volunteers who are fundamental to making Krakow Photomonth a success each year and the collaboration of partners both within Poland and across wider Europe. With the aim of creating beautiful photographic images and texts in books that are themselves often works of art, and encouraging new talent within the industry, the work of the Foundation can be an inspiration to anyone who wishes to embark in a similar direction.

Scarlett O’Flaherty